Hope that’s hard to believe in

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Hope that’s hard to believe in

President Park Geun-hye’s speech yesterday commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Liberation Day focused much attention on domestic issues. More than half of it was devoted to addressing an ongoing social trend of self-depreciation and calling on people to overcome times of economic uncertainty to achieve a second economic leap for Korea. The speech was much different from last year’s, which focused mostly on North Korea.

Park’s fourth Liberation Day speech also differed from many Liberation Day speeches given by her predecessors, who used them as platforms to present new policy directions on North Korea and Japan.

Particularly on North Korea, Park did not use the word “dialogue” a single time, though she has sought improvement in inter-Korea relations through dialogue since taking office.

Park only insisted on the North giving up its nuclear development and provocations. Japan was mentioned in a single sentence, which read, “Let’s build a future-oriented relationship while facing history squarely.”

Park focused on delivering to the Korean people a sense of hope by speaking words like “confidence,” “pride” and “can-do spirit.”

Given that Liberation Day is the celebration of the nation’s independence from Japanese colonial rule, the absence of messages about Japan and North Korea is circumstantial evidence of the Park Geun-hye government’s difficulty coming to terms with big issues.

We are at a time of grave changes in the geopolitical situation in northeast Asia. Strategic thinking is more important than ever for the nation.

Facing growing pressure from Russia and China in their opposition to deployment of the High Terminal Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, there is much talk of crisis in the Seoul-Beijing relations. It is not inconceivable to predict dramatic changes in regional politics as a result of improvement in Pyongyang-Beijing relations, with Russia included in a trilateral united front.

Park should present a more active diplomatic overture to Tokyo. She should lay out a breakthrough plan that could bring about tangible changes for North Korea.

The times call for an audacious shift in policy. President Park talked of hope. But such talk in the absence of a detailed strategy cannot bring about true hope. A president’s capability to achieve policy goals and the will to carry them out is needed. That is the basis of hope.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 16, Page 30
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